How to Open a Clothing Store: 13-Step Checklist
Everything in a retail clothing store is intentional; from the feeling of the fabric to the smell of the custom scent in the air.
That’s why opening a retail clothing store is significantly more difficult than opening many other types of retail shops. When it comes to a boutique or clothing store, it’s easy to overlook important details.
So what’s the best way to open a new retail shop? Let’s review all the essential checklist items that you need to cross off when opening a new clothing store.
How to Open a Clothing Store in 13 Easy Steps
The good news is that despite the popularity of online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers are still expected to account for the bulk majority of total sales this year.
The not-so-good news is that small business longevity is difficult to achieve, especially in retail. Recent surveys report that less than half of in-person retailers are still up and running after the first four years of business.
Launching your clothing store and achieving sustainable success requires several key steps, including choosing a reliable point of sale (POS) system. Although deciding on your POS system requirements isn’t as exciting as choosing your design pieces, it’s essential for managing promotions, processing payments, tracking inventory, and analyzing sales data. At POS Nation, we’ve helped business owners like yourself process more than $2 billion in sales nationwide - and we’re just getting started!
Other than your POS system, let’s review the rest of the essential steps that you need to follow to launch successfully.
1. Find Your Niche
There are many essential checklist items in this article, but by far, finding the right niche is one of the most impactful decisions you can make about your store. Your niche is a central decision that affects your pricing, vendors, decor, branding, location, and target market.
Discovering your niche starts with a reconnaissance of what clothing styles you are interested in and who you would like to create clothing for. Once you have an idea of what types of clothing you can sell, the next step is to test your ideas with market research. Understanding the competitiveness of your market, industry-standard pricing, and the demand for your area of interest helps you make an informed decision on which fashion niche you would like to choose.
2. Understand Your Target Audience
Once you’ve found your niche, you must understand your target audience’s needs, wants, and lifestyles. If you can solve the problems of your target audience and easily fit into their daily lives and budget, your brand will be starting on the right foot.
Several essential questions to ask about your target audience include:
- What are my target audience’s problems and wants that I can solve?
- Is my clothing brand affordable for my ideal customers?
- How often does my target audience shop?
- Where do my ideal customers spend their time?
- Is my store location easily accessible to my target audience?
Getting access to the answers you need comes from market research, focus groups, and surveys. By understanding how your target audience thinks and feels about your clothing brand, you will be able to make strategic decisions moving forward.
3. Obtaining Permits and Licenses
Before making any permanent decisions on locations, inventory, and everything your clothing store needs, registering for your permits and licenses are pivotal.
Depending on your state and local government regulations, there may be specific health, building, business, and safety permits that you may need to obtain. In addition to local permits and licenses, it’s crucial to confirm you have all of your federal business and tax registrations completed. During the course of your business, your permits and licenses are likely to expire, so keeping up with expiration dates and required paperwork helps keep your doors open.
4. Branding and Decor
Branding your clothing store starts before the moment a customer steps through your door. Your customers’ first impressions of your business start on Google, social media, from the window display, and with your signage.
Branding and decor decisions before opening day include:
- Business name
- Color scheme
- Custom store scent
- Business motto
- Store signage
- Window display
- Social media content strategy
- Construction project management
- Dressing room design
- Checkout line and counter setup
- Painting and wall designs
- Shopping bag design
The feel and style of your store will either attract your ideal customers or deter them. Once you have an idea of the branding and decor choices you would like to make, conduct more market research to see what your target customers would think. By confirming that your branding and decor speak to your target customers, you’re setting up your business for success.
5. Strategically Choosing Your Location
Foot traffic or no foot traffic? Your location determines how easily people find you and will significantly contribute to how much incoming traffic you have.
Let’s say you open your clothing store in a walkable town where everyone does their shopping within a two-block radius, and you position your store on the outskirts of town where it’s primarily driveable traffic. The question to ask yourself is will my target customer be able to come across my store regularly?
Estimating your foot traffic and initial surge of grand opening interest will also help you determine how much inventory you need as an initial investment.
If you’re in the pre-launch stage of your business and considering an area of low traffic for your store location, there are alternative options to help attract business. Utilizing large signage, traditional advertisements, and social media helps increase your reach that you wouldn’t otherwise have in a low-traffic location.
6. Finding Vendors
Searching for vendors is a laborious process, especially when it has such a high impact on the satisfaction and longevity of your clothing.
When searching for a vendor and buying pieces for your clothing store or boutique, it’s easy to get lost in all of the options. Some best practices for your vendor search include joining online wholesaler groups, researching which areas your vendor sells in to avoid duplicate inventory, and attending wholesaler markets to search for new, original designs.
No matter which vendor you choose, your vendor should fit your budget while delivering quality items that your customers will love. Building up your inventory is a significant investment, so it’s crucial to spend as much time as you need to find a trusted, reliable vendor that delivers what you need.
7. Determining Pricing
With your target audience in mind - what would they pay for one of your pieces? If that price doesn’t cover your costs while leaving room for profit, then you may be in trouble.
There are many pricing strategies you can use to find the exact right price for your clothing store pieces, including keystone pricing, multiple pricing, and loss-leading pricing.
Overall your pricing should encompass many expenses, including:
- Employee costs
- Vendor fees
- Initial opening costs
- Shipping costs
- Operation and overhead costs
By choosing the right pricing strategy and accurately estimating your costs and customer demand, you’ll be able to price your items correctly, leaving room for profit.
8. Planning Store Layout
The layout of your store is not only important for organizing your merchandise but also affecting your customer’s psychology and buying decisions. Recent research examines the effect of a store layout on customers’ buying habits, reporting that 90% of U.S. shoppers automatically turn to their right after entering a retail store.
By researching the different ways your customers think and shop, you’ll be able to make strategic decisions about your store layout. Two more examples of how your store layout impacts your customers are the shape of your checkout line and your entryway. If your checkout line snakes around and has convenient merchandise for your customers to pick up on the way quickly, you’re able to upsell your customers seamlessly. Keeping a clear and inviting entryway is a great way to attract shoppers passing by when it comes to your entryway. Many behavioral studies will undoubtedly affect your customer’s experience in your store and quite possibly your sales, so examining how this affects your store is a strategic move.
9. Purchasing Retail Store Supplies
Before selling your first piece of clothing, it’s crucial to buy all the necessary supplies your store needs.
Crucial supplies that should be on your pre-launch checklist include:
- Clothing racks
- Backroom storage organization
- POS system and barcode scanners
- Inventory management software
- Security and anti-theft system
- Shelf displays
- Window displays
If these essential purchases are set up before purchasing your inventory, you’ll be ready to get your store up and running quickly.
There are many supplies needed to maintain, manage, and track what you have, what’s selling quickly, and what needs to be ordered when it comes to your inventory. Utilizing our POS system hardware and software, you’re able to easily track your inventory, manage your promotions, analyze your sales data, and securely process payments. With your POS system taken care of, you’re able to have peace of mind come opening day; you’ll be able to manage payments, inventory, and grand opening promotions easily.
10. Sales Staff
Hiring decisions are a significant part of management responsibilities. Whether you’re hiring or your store manager is doing the hiring, it’s crucial to have the exact stipulations you’re looking for in a salesperson or retail worker.
There is a long-term benefit of hiring good salespeople for your clothing store. Not only do talented employees sell more of your merchandise and help shoppers find what they’re looking for, but they also are costly to replace. Hiring a new employee is estimated to cost $4,000 on average after an initial 42 days of searching and interviewing for the open position. For some companies, it can take up to half a year to recoup their investment in the initial hiring costs. Hiring the right employee for the job will end up saving you time and money, and with the right sales staff, you’ll be able to recoup your investment faster with more sales.
11. Marketing Plan
Once you’ve made the essential purchasing decisions and start preparing for opening day, it’s crucial to consider your marketing plan. Your marketing plan should include estimated budgets for marketing and advertising, a social media strategy, overall marketing strategy, and website creation strategy.
Ensuring your marketing plan is set up enables more customers to find your business and increases the likelihood of success, especially for your grand opening. You can also plan out strategies to ensure that your exact target market sees your grand opening promotions in your marketing plan.
12. Plan A Grand Opening
It’s time to launch! Grand openings say a lot about your business; the more buzz you get going, the better. When the big day arrives, it’s crucial to not only maximize your initial sales but also maximize your customer retention and repeat business.
When you open up a new store, people get curious and want to see what’s new in town. So it’s crucial to grab their attention and give them a reason to come back. Your grand opening can include special promotions, snacks, refreshments, music, and other attractions to garner as much buzz as possible. In addition, you can also collaborate with other local businesses to cross-promote your business opening by doing a giveaway and attracting their customers’ attention.
Don’t Skip This Important Checklist Item
Now that we’ve reviewed how to open a clothing store, the next step is to check off all the boxes left on your checklist. Before making your next big decision, there’s something you need to know. Purchasing your POS system is a crucial box to check before your grand opening, and before choosing your POS provider, there is essential information to consider.
Check out our Retail POS System Buyers’ Guide to get step-by-step instructions and all the questions you need to consider before finding the right retail POS system for your new clothing store.